Thirty-eight years ago, Kathy Anderson Enyart ’74, then a physical education teacher in Monroe, Iowa, received a mailing about an upcoming dance competition in Lamoni. After spending a Saturday watching the contest, Enyart decided to start her own dance/drill team in Monroe. “I still don’t know why I started the team,” she says. “I guess fate intervened.”
When Enyart began teaching dance in her P.E. classes, she had no dance experience herself. But she didn’t let that stop her. After teaching herself the terminology and techniques, she started coaching her small dance team for no pay. For the first several years, the team regularly performed during halftime at basketball games. After that experience, she decided it was time to join the competition that had originally sparked her interest.
That decision started a revolution in high school dance in Iowa. Enyart helped the competition grow from the nine teams in 1976 to 270 teams in 2012. She started by serving as contest director for the state competition. From there, she took on the challenge of organizing the Iowa Dance/Drill Teams Association (ISDTA) into a nonprofit organization—therefore creating her own job and becoming her own boss.
“I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” says Enyart. “I love the challenge to always improve the program, and the rewards are unending.”
The competition continues to grow each year. In 2012, more than 500 soloists danced in the State Solo Competition, and more than 5,000 dancers participated in the Iowa High School and College State Competition held at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines—making it the largest state competition in the nation. Over the past five years, Enyart has also added the State College Competition, with 23 Iowa colleges competing, including the Central College Dance Team coached by Cindy Wilson, a former high school dancer for Enyart.
Enyart has also set up a senior scholarship program and team awards for community service, academics and sportsmanship. “It isn’t all about winning,” she says. “It’s about developing young women and men into well-rounded individuals from participating in dance.”
Everyone in Enyart’s family is involved in her work, including her husband Doug, son Scott ’00 and his wife Kristin Stecker Enyart ’02 and daughter Andrea Enyart Dana ’03 and her husband Chris. “I owe so much to my family’s support and help at the state competitions,” says Enyart.
In 1982, Enyart also began organizing and directing the All-Iowa Honor Dance Team, which now includes 276 Iowa dancers who perform during the halftime shows at the high school girl’s state basketball tournament each year. Throughout the week, Enyart works from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. coordinating the shows.
Over the years, Enyart has taken on some unique jobs involving dance. Some of her favorites include judging for the Bill Riley Talent Show at the Iowa State Fair, serving as assistant director for the opening ceremonies of the 1984 World’s Fair in Brisbane, Australia, and directing several bowl game halftime shows. Enyart was also assistant director for the production of the Shawn Johnson Dancing with the Stars show at held at Wells Fargo Arena.
Despite her long hours organizing the ISDTA competition and working on other jobs, Enyart wasn’t ready to give up coaching. She returned to Central as the dance coach in 2001. She coached her daughter for three years before Andrea joined her mother as assistant coach. Enyart retired from that position in 2005.
Enyart credits Central College professors and coaches with instilling in her the courage to take risks and try new things. “Central offered me the environment and learning atmosphere that gave me the desire to pursue my teaching degree and other avenues—like the world of dance,” she says. “I was always the athlete and musician during high school. If you would have told me in high school that I would be doing what I am today, I would not have believed you.”
The work that Enyart has done for the dance community was recognized in 2011 when the Iowa Hall of Pride at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines recognized dancers across Iowa with an exhibit. She has also received the Central College Lifetime Achievement Award and is a Lifetime Recipient of ISDTA and the National Dance/Drill Team Directors of America. Most recently she was presented the Iowa Dance Theatre Performing Arts Award for her outstanding dedication and commitment to the dancers in Iowa.
For Enyart, dance has become a way of life. “Dance is an expression of art, but it’s also a physical activity,” she says. She will tell you without hesitation that dance is a sport. While coaching at Central, she put this quote on the team’s first shirt: “It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer.”